The Tesla battery built to beat power cuts in South Australia could fail to deliver— and instead prompt a backlash against the technology, a prominent energy storage expert warns in the winter issue of Batteries and Energy Storage Technology Magazine.
The 100MW lithium-ion powerpack dubbed the world’s biggest battery could fail to live up to the hype surrounding its installation in the state last month through no fault of its own, because a host of other issues including a fragmented regulatory environment and creaking infrastructure, BEST reports.
And the magazine reveals how industry insiders fear the state government’s rush to buy the battery, for a reported AUD50 million (about $40m), was more about supercharging its political fortunes in the run-up to elections in March 2018— to try and erase memories of a catastrophic state blackout in 2016.
Australia-based Dr Jill Cainey, the grid solutions global application director for energy storage at Chicago-based electric power systems equipment and services provider, S&C Electric Company, tells BEST she fears January and February could be a make or break moment for the battery project— when air-conditioning in homes, businesses and public buildings in the state capital of Adelaide is cranked up to combat daily average temperatures of around 29°C.
Cainey (pictured)— who was recently awarded an MBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for services to energy storage in Queen Elizabeth’s birthday honours list— says Australia’s power system as a whole is “on the edge, with old assets struggling to deal with hot weather” and unable to meet demand for air conditioning.
Cainey predicts that the “standard” practice of cutting power supplies to smaller towns and communities to ensure major cities “stayed cool” will continue. “So a project that is a triumph for public relations at the moment in South Australia may not look so good in a typical load shedding situation.
Cainey also reveals how one small town in the shadow of the battery plant site itself has already endured a power failure and says she sees “no business rationale” for the project.
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